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Home  >  Topics  >  Border Patrol

August 24, 2012
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Thane Gallagher Patrolling the Border
with Thane Gallagher

Illegal immigrants' 'auxiliary documents' cause confusion for cops

A new market for counterfeit documents has just been born, and the law enforcement officer now must wade through a morass of data in ‘auxiliary documents’

Many of my colleagues have been shaking their heads in utter confusion over the past few months, on the heels of President Obama’s direction to suspend deportation proceedings for “young people” who came here illegally as children, but who have remained in the U.S. since that time.

Now, the claims that “I’ve been here since I was little” are more common than sunny days in Southern California. Why all the confusion?

Well, for starters, how does any law enforcement official investigate a claim or statement, when many times no evidence exists to support such a statement but nor does any evidence exist to disprove same?

Prosecutorial Discretion
Considering that a majority of illegal immigrants use, proliferate the use of, fraudulently obtain and/or outright produce counterfeit identification and/or immigration documents, what documents are we supposed to use to establish any of the newly minted requirements necessary to qualify for “prosecutorial discretion?”

The guidelines lay out the use of auxiliary documents such as school records, financial records, health records, and others in order to establish certain timeline requirements which are required to remain in the U.S., free of any additional scrutiny.

However, none of those auxiliary documents are produced to any specific and/or unifying government standard and those types of records are so vastly different in terms of production value, appearance, quality, and industry-standard benchmarks typically ssociated with establishing identity and/or residence, that an entirely new market for counterfeit documents has just been born.

It’s important to keep in mind that 99 percent of those ‘auxiliary’ documents don’t even contain a photograph for comparison, leaving the officer to wade through a morass of data, while doing his/her best to pose questions sufficient to dispel any doubts about the data’s validity.

For example, a 23-year-old El Salvadoran national with no prior U.S. arrest record — who illegally crossed the border two months ago — could easily then obtain all the aforementioned “auxiliary” documents necessary to not only escape prosecution, but remain at large indefinitely.

Of course, this is provided he’s not arrested, booked and/or convicted of a crime sometime down the road, and therefore firmly establishing a full set of fingerprints into the system.

Occupational Heartburn
Most of us are familiar with the rule of threes: a suspect arrested for most crimes has probably committed that same crime at least three times before being arrested by a patrol officer. We hope the same rule doesn’t apply to murder, rape, kidnapping, and assault, but in some instances, the rule still holds true.

But, through all of this, most of us have chosen to mitigate the confusion the only way we know how: hit roll-call, go 10-8 and get to work.

It’s the best therapy I know of. Unfortunately, changes like these are not unknown to any of us who have been in this business awhile. Who among us hasn’t suffered occupational heartburn over adverse circuit court and/or SCOTUS decisions, policy changes, citizen’s rights groups?

It seems that all of us in this business are born to compete in the hurdle event, finding ways to get the job done right without falling flat on our faces. But I’m confident that most of us aren’t going to let those types of setbacks stop us from putting in jail those who belong in jail.

Stay safe and persevere. 


About the author

Thane Gallagher is a senior law enforcement officer who has worked in various patrol assignments throughout his career, from this nation’s rugged back country locales, to pavement laden urban highways. In addition to his enforcement duties, he’s also a certified EMT and Field Training Officer. As an FTO, Gallagher (along with his partner) developed a more modern tactical approach and training model to teach newer personnel how to conduct highway interdiction operations. For three years, Gallagher was assigned as a Task Force Officer within a gang/narcotics unit. As a Task Force Officer and in addition to the usual investigative caseload, he was often consulted by other federal and local agencies for guidance and investigative support on a wide variety of immigration, identity theft, and document fraud issues. He’s currently assigned to highway narcotics interdiction, within a special operations group. Concurrent with this assignment, Gallagher also helps train officers from various local agencies to conduct this specialized operation, by combining the application of industry standard field tactics with the analysis of behavioral indicators in the motoring public. 

Gallagher served four years on active duty with the U.S. Coast Guard, while assigned to patrol various locales from the Bering Sea on one of the service’s largest high endurance cutters, to the Channel Islands off of Southern California on small patrol boats. Gallagher not only specialized in search and rescue operations, but he became a certified Maritime Law Enforcement Officer (Boarding Officer) early in his military career, which is where he first whet his appetite for enforcing the law. Gallagher participated in and/or led as the primary officer, hundreds of boardings throughout his Coast Guard career, making arrests for everything from boating under the influence, to narcotics smuggling on the high seas, to poaching and/or unauthorized fishing in protected waters, to felons in possession of firearms.





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